Bowl buzz dizzying to all in the Big Ten

Indiana coach Bill Lynch is not even going to try explaining the different bowl scenarios to his players. "It'd be too confusing to get into it," he said. But he knows players are constantly on Web sites looking up information and hearing the var...

Indiana coach Bill Lynch is not even going to try explaining the different bowl scenarios to his players.

"It'd be too confusing to get into it," he said.

But he knows players are constantly on Web sites looking up information and hearing the various possibilities from classmates.

"They're going to get enough of it without us talking to them about it," Lynch said.

Indiana is one of 10 Big Ten teams that is bowl-eligible. That, however, does not mean bowl-guaranteed, which is why the Big Ten's final weekend could have some serious impact.


Iowa, Michigan State and Northwestern all became bowl eligible Saturday when they upped their records to 6-5. Indiana also is 6-5.

The Big Ten never has qualified 10 different teams for the postseason before.

Bowls are a topic not to be broached in Evanston.

"I'm not really worried about it," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "There's not enough time in the day to worry about things you can't control. It's insignificant right now for us."

A seventh victory against Illinois would seem to assure the Wildcats a bowl bid.

Looking up

Ohio State -- The Buckeyes are compiling information to send to the NCAA by Thursday on the mid-field altercation after Ohio State lost to Illinois, coach Jim Tressel said. The fight was short-lived and began after the Buckeyes took offense to the Illini celebrating on the "O" on the 50-yard line.

Michigan -- Deciding late in the week on the availability of running back Mike Hart and quarterback Chad Henne is nothing new, coach Lloyd Carr said.


The Michigan players were sidelined in the Wolverines loss to Wisconsin and are game-day decisions again. Carr also laughed and said, "No," when asked if he had discussed with players unconfirmed reports of him resigning after the season.

Illinois -- The college football scene still is buzzing about the Illini toppling then-No. 1 Ohio State, but coach Ron Zook said the deadline for the players' celebration ended Monday night. The Illini have not beaten Northwestern in the Zook era.

"These guys are focused," Zook said. "This is a game we talked about in the summer as one we needed to be ready to play. "

Penn State -- Two of the Nittany Lions' three losses have come on the road, where they hope to end their regular season at Michigan State on an upswing. Coach Joe Paterno is aware the 6-5 Spartans' offense averages 34 points per game. "They may have as much talent as anyone in the league," he said. "They're very aggressive. They're alert. They're opportunists."

Wisconsin -- Taylor Mehlhaff is one of the Badgers most valuable players. He is tied in the Big Ten with most field goals made, connecting on 18 of 20 attempts. He also handles kickoff duties, averaging 66.5 yards per kick with 23 touchbacks. In the victory over Michigan, he made three field goals, including a 40-yarder, with four extra points. "When NFL scouts come through, they're so impressed with what he does on a daily basis," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said.

Direction pending

Iowa -- Iowa is the only Big Ten team with a season finale against a non-conference team, taking on 3-7 Western Michigan. "I don't think we've ever been in this situation," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "But this game is no less significant than any other week we've played."

Northwestern -- The Wildcats can not be thankful enough for the return of running back Tyrell Sutton, who picked up 144 yards on 33 carries in the critical victory over Indiana. After sitting out six games with injury, Sutton has averaged 109.6 yards rushing in three games. "It's not easy to get your timing back and he's at full speed right now," Fitzgerald said.


Michigan State -- Michigan State beat Purdue to end a three-game losing streak and become bowl eligible in front of a noteworthy crowd. Representatives of Capital One, Outback, Champs Sports, Alamo, Motor City and Insight Bowls were all present.

Trending down

Indiana -- If it was not for a loss, Indiana receiver James Hardy would have had plenty of reasons to celebrate against Northwestern.

Hardy scored two touchdowns and had seven catches for 107 yards, breaking a school record for career receiving yards and receptions.

Purdue -- The Boilermakers (6-5) have gone 2-4 in their last six games, losing most recently to Michigan State. Against Indiana on Saturday, they will need quarterback Chris Painter to return to his pinpoint accuracy. After he threw only six interceptions all season, he threw two in their loss to the Spartans.

Minnesota -- Give Tim Brewster the award for most optimistic. The Golden Gophers head into their season finale without a conference victory, but Brewster said he sees improvement. Minnesota kept Iowa scoreless in the second half, but could not manage a comeback. "We're committed to playing championship defense," Brewster said.


"About the only place we've marched this year is the training table," Ferentz said when asked about his team marching over Western Michigan.


Player of the week

Juice Williams, Illinois -- Williams threw for a career-high four touchdowns and rushed for 70 yards to help the Illini take down No. 1 Ohio State. Leading by a touchdown, the sophomore quarterback converted on a fourth-and-1 and on three third-down attempts with rushes to keep the ball from the Buckeyes for the final 8 minutes 9 seconds of the game.

Coach of the week

Ron Zook, Illinois -- Zook kept Ohio State on its heels with play-action calls all day and decided to go for it on that fourth down.

-- Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune

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